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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 22 | 09.11.23

Trials and tribulations of Ariane 6. Placing our order for space knees, please. The FAA concludes its Starship mishap investigation. And more!



Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 22 | 09.11.23

Trials and tribulations of Ariane 6. Placing our order for space knees, please. The FAA concludes its Starship mishap investigation. And more!



Signals and Space is your weekly intelligence briefing to ensure you know what's going up and what’s going on in space—and why it matters.

Here’s what we covered last week:

Monday, 9/04/23: Career Notes- T-Minus Space Daily Podcast Producer Alice Carruth. 

  1. T-Minus Space Daily special edition: Producer Alice Carruth walked us through her unique career path in the space industry.

Tuesday, 9/05/23: Trials and tribulations of Ariane 6.

  1. ESA Delays Ariane 6 Decisions

    • Who: European Space Agency (ESA) and ArianeGroup
    • What: ESA has delayed final decisions on the Ariane 6 launcher but has made progress with combined engine tests and hot-fire tests. A first launch date is expected to be announced in October.
    • Why: This adds further delays to Europe's next-generation rocket but suggests that ESA is cautiously optimistic. As commercial space endeavors grow, the Ariane 6 is crucial for Europe to remain competitive in the launch market.
  2. Energy Source for Moon Living

    • Who: Researchers at Bangor University, Rolls Royce, UK Space Agency, NASA, and Los Alamos National Laboratory
    • What: Development of nuclear fuel cells, small enough to be the size of poppy seeds, to potentially sustain life on the Moon.
    • Why: This research has immediate implications for long-term lunar colonization and partnerships with major aerospace entities suggest its practical applications could come sooner rather than later.
  3. ISRO's Lunar Mission in Sleep Mode

    • Who: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
    • What: Lunar lander Vikram and rover Pragyan have completed their experiments on the Moon and are now in sleep mode until September 22.
    • Why: Shows India's cautious but steady advancement in lunar exploration. The next lunar day could reveal further findings and keep India in the international space exploration conversation.
  4. Manastu Space Raises $3M for Green Propulsion

    • Who: Mumbai-based startup Manastu Space
    • What: Secured $3 million in a pre-seed Series A funding round for development of its Green Propulsion and Debris Collision Avoidance System.
    • Why: Indicates the growing role of private enterprise in space tech, particularly in emerging markets. Manastu Space's focus on eco-friendly technology also suggests a shift toward sustainability in space travel.
  5. UAE Astronaut Returns from ISS

    • Who: Sultan Al Neyadi, UAE, SpaceX
    • What: UAE’s Sultan Al Neyadi returned to Earth via SpaceX Crew 6, marking the longest mission and first spacewalk by an Emirati astronaut.
    • Why: Demonstrates the UAE's aggressive push into space exploration and science, further diversified by their near $6 billion investment in the space sector.
  6. JAXA’s Funding Commitment

    • Who: Japanese Government, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
    • What: Japan commits 10 billion Yen for fiscal year 2024 to fund companies and universities engaged in space development.
    • Why: This is a strong move by Japan to accelerate its space capabilities and compete internationally, especially as it seems to be following a model similar to NASA's public-private partnerships.
  7. SpaceX Launches SDA Satellites

    • Who: SpaceX and Space Development Agency
    • What: SpaceX successfully launched 13 satellites as part of the Space Development Agency's Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture.
    • Why: Another feather in SpaceX's cap and a significant milestone for the U.S. military's push for more robust and distributed space assets.
  8. Firefly & L3Harris Multi-Launch Agreement

    • Who: Firefly Aerospace and L3Harris Technologies
    • What: Firefly Aerospace signs a multi-launch agreement with L3Harris Technologies for three dedicated launches in 2026.
    • Why: Confirms Firefly as an emerging player in the competitive launch services market and represents new business synergies in commercial spaceflight.
  9. Amazon's Project Kuiper and Vodafone

    • Who: Amazon, Vodafone
    • What: Vodafone plans to work with Amazon's Project Kuiper to extend 4G and 5G networks across Europe and Africa.
    • Why: This represents a major commercial partnership that could change the landscape of global telecommunications, especially in underserved areas.
  10. Fleet Space & Thor Energy for Mineral Drilling

    • Who: Fleet Space Technologies and Thor Energy
    • What: Partnership to use space-based technology to develop more precise and efficient mineral drilling campaigns.
    • Why: Illustrates how space technology is increasingly finding applications in other industries, and also signifies a long-term commitment by both companies to this endeavor.
  11. Featured interview: Dr. John Z. Kiss, space biologist and professor at UNCG who studies plants in microgravity and low gravity environments. You can connect with Dr. Kiss on LinkedIn and find out more about his research at UNCG’s website.

Wednesday, 9/06/23: Space Hi-Jinkies.

  1. Unusual Launch Activity at Cape Canaveral

    • Who: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), SpaceX, ULA, NASA
    • What: Three unclaimed launches at Cape Canaveral; speculation points to a hypersonic missile test by the DoD.
    • Why: The absence of SpaceX, ULA, and NASA signals that secretive military testing could be underway, highlighting the DoD's ongoing interest in rapid-response capabilities like hypersonic missiles.
  2. China's Long March 4C Mystery Payload

    • Who: China's space agency
    • What: Unknown payload launching from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on a Long March 4C rocket.
    • Why: The secrecy around this launch adds to concerns about China's intentions in space, possibly relating to either defense or advanced technology experiments.
  3. SpaceX Starship FAA Approval Delay

    • Who: SpaceX, FAA
    • What: Starship ready for a second test flight pending FAA approval.
    • Why: While SpaceX shows readiness, the holdup with the FAA underscores the regulatory hurdles that private space companies still face. An approved launch would be a significant step toward making Starship a reality.
  4. JAXA's XRISM and SLIM Missions

    • Who: JAXA, NASA, ESA
    • What: XRISM and SLIM are scheduled to launch on an H-2A rocket after a previous scrub.
    • Why: This launch signifies international cooperation in space exploration and gives JAXA another chance to showcase its growing capabilities.
  5. Voyager Space's ISS Payload Gambit

    • Who: Voyager Space
    • What: Installation of a new self-built payload called Gambit to the Bishop Airlock on the ISS.
    • Why: The installation broadens the range of tests that can be conducted in space, especially concerning robotic transfer and installation processes, and marks a key commercial contribution to the ISS.
  6. SES Space and Defense Contract

    • Who: SES Space and Defense, U.S. Air Force Research Lab
    • What: Multi-year contract for integrating space broadband services across multiple orbits.
    • Why: The DEUCSI program aims to diversify military communications and this contract shows the U.S. military's increased reliance on commercial space technologies.
  7. Terran Orbital's Satellite Lineup

    • Who: Terran Orbital
    • What: Unveiled a new range of standard satellite bus platforms covering nano to small classes.
    • Why: By standardizing satellite platforms, Terran Orbital aims to accelerate the deployment of satellites for various applications, including defense.
  8. Wyvern and Loft Orbital Partnership

    • Who: Wyvern, Loft Orbital
    • What: Expanding the coverage of the Dragonette Satellite constellation.
    • Why: This partnership aims to provide seamless access to hyperspectral data, serving a niche but growing market in earth observation technologies.
  9. Ariane 6 Test in French Guiana

    • Who: European Space Agency
    • What: A hot fire test of the Ariane 6's Vulcain 2.1 engine was conducted.
    • Why: This test contributes to ESA's broader goals of making Ariane 6 a competitive player in the launch market, despite ongoing delays.
  10. Galactic Energy's Sea Launch

    • Who: Galactic Energy
    • What: CERES-1 Y1 rocket sea launch carrying four satellites.
    • Why: Marking the company's first sea launch, Galactic Energy becomes the first private Chinese company capable of both land and sea-based launches, highlighting China's rapidly advancing commercial space sector.
  11. NASA Small Business Contracts

    • Who: Astrobotic, Solstar Space, NASA
    • What: Astrobotic and Solstar Space have received Small Business Innovation Research contracts from NASA for lunar and data relay research.
    • Why: These contracts show NASA's commitment to fostering innovation through partnerships with small businesses, essential for tackling upcoming challenges in space exploration.
  12. Featured interview: Starfish Space Director of Strategic Relationships Michael Madrid on reviving the Otter Pup. You can connect with Michael on LinkedIn and find out more about Starfish Space on their website.

Thursday, 9/07/23: Placing our order for space knees, please.

  1. Redwire Biofabrication's Breakthrough: Space Knees

    • Who: Redwire Biofabrication, a biotech subsidiary in the space industry.

    • What: Successfully bioprinted the first human knee meniscus on the International Space Station (ISS).

    • Why: This achievement opens new avenues in the field of regenerative medicine, offering an alternative to synthetic or cadaver replacements for damaged menisci. Microgravity conditions on the ISS provide an ideal environment for such bioprinting.

  2. U.S. Tests Minuteman 3 ICBM

    • Who: United States Space Force.

    • What: Conducted a test launch of an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

    • Why: Regular testing ensures the reliability and readiness of the nation's strategic defense systems. The test follows a one-year gap since the last similar exercise.

  3. New Mission Statement for U.S. Space Force

    • Who: United States Space Force.

    • What: Unveiled a new mission statement: "To secure our Nation’s interests in, from, and to space."

    • Why: Aims to clarify the role and objectives of the Space Force amid ongoing development and activity.

  4. SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture Solicitation

    • Who: Space Development Agency (SDA).

    • What: Issued a solicitation for prototyping the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture Tranche 2 Tracking Layer, aiming for global tracking and missile defense.

    • Why: Advances the U.S. capability to monitor and defend against various missile threats, including hypersonic systems.

  5. NOAA’s NESDIS Commercial Data Program

    • Who: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    • What: Hosting an industry day for its National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) Commercial Data Program.

    • Why: To discuss data pilot projects and operational data purchases, aiming for enhancement in environmental monitoring.

  6. Antaris Seed Funding and DoD Contract

    • Who: Antaris, a space software company.

    • What: Closed a preferred seed funding round of $3.5 million and was awarded a DoD contract.

    • Why: The funding and contract will likely accelerate Antaris' tech development, including its upcoming technology demonstration satellite, JANUS-2.

  7. Workforce Changes at Blue Origin

    • Who: Blue Origin.

    • What: Layoffs within the company, particularly in human resources and talent acquisition departments.

    • Why: The downsizing suggests internal adjustments, possibly as the company restructures or shifts focus.

  8. Relativity Space Expands at Stennis Space Center

    • Who: Relativity Space.

    • What: Expanded its facilities at NASA’s Stennis Space Center through a lease agreement for a vertical test stand.

    • Why: The expansion will support the company’s Terran R program and potentially create hundreds of new jobs.

  9. UK Joins Horizon Europe Post-Brexit

    • Who: United Kingdom and the European Union.

    • What: UK researchers will once again have access to Horizon Europe, the world’s largest research collaboration program.

    • Why: This marks a thawing in relations and could provide the UK’s earth observation sector with valuable data and contract opportunities.

  10. JAXA’s SLIM and XRISM Launch

    • Who: Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

    • What: Launched the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) and X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM).

    • Why: SLIM will contribute to lunar research while XRISM aims to study the material between galaxies.

  11. India’s Solar Observatory: Aditya L1

    • Who: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

    • What: Successfully launched its first solar observation spacecraft, Aditya L1.

    • Why: The mission aims to provide valuable data about the Sun, contributing to the global understanding of solar phenomena.

  12. Featured interview: Scott McLaughlin, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA). NMSA is the state agency that manages Spaceport America. You can connect with Scott on LinkedIn and find out more about Spaceport America on their website.

Friday, 9/08/23: The FAA concludes its Starship mishap investigation.

  1. FAA Closes SpaceX Starship Investigation

    • Who: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and SpaceX

    • What: The FAA has closed its investigation into SpaceX's Starship mishap during its first flight test this past April. SpaceX is given a list of 63 corrective actions.

    • Why: This closure is a step toward the resumption of Starship launches, though it doesn’t guarantee immediate resumption. Companies and investors eyeing commercial space activities should monitor these developments as they may affect the timelines for SpaceX’s ambitious goals, including Mars missions.

  2. Biden Nominates New FAA Administrator

    • Who: U.S. President Biden and Mike Whitaker

    • What: Biden has nominated Mike Whitaker as the new FAA Administrator. Whitaker has 30 years of experience in aviation.

    • Why: Given the increased interaction between the FAA and private space companies like SpaceX, Whitaker’s appointment could have significant implications for the space industry, especially around regulation and safety.

  3. GAO Report on NASA's SLS Program

    • Who: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and NASA

    • What: A new GAO report labels NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) as "unaffordable."

    • Why: The criticism could spur changes in funding or even policy direction for NASA's Artemis program. Companies involved in space exploration should watch for potential shifts in strategy or partnerships.

  4. Virgin Galactic Launches Galactic 03

    • Who: Virgin Galactic

    • What: Launched another commercial spaceflight, Galactic 03, from its New Mexico base.

    • Why: As commercial spaceflights become more frequent, Virgin Galactic may become a more appealing investment or partnership opportunity for businesses in or entering the space tourism market.

  5. ULA Announces Spy Satellite Launch

    • Who: United Launch Alliance (ULA)

    • What: Planning to launch the SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 mission, a US spy satellite, on an Atlas V rocket.

    • Why: The mission underscores the high stakes and government contracts available in the growing space industry, potentially attracting more private sector interest.

  6. Rocket Lab’s Upcoming Launch

    • Who: Rocket Lab and Capella Space

    • What: Scheduled to launch a satellite for Capella Space later this month.

    • Why: Showcases the importance of private launch services for commercial satellite operators, emphasizing Rocket Lab’s role in this segment of the market.

  7. China-South Africa Lunar Research Cooperation

    • Who: China’s National Space Administration and the South African National Space Agency

    • What: Signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Lunar Research Cooperation.

    • Why: The partnership extends China's international reach in space exploration and might lead to broader geopolitical implications involving space resources and technology sharing.

  8. Eutelsat Joins Karista’s Spacetech Fund

    • Who: Karista and Eutelsat Communications

    • What: Eutelsat becomes a new subscriber to Karista's venture capital Spacetech fund.

    • Why: This partnership is an indicator of growing commercial interest in space technologies and could spur more innovation and investment in the European space sector.

  9. SpinLaunch Partners with Sumitomo Corporation

    • Who: SpinLaunch and Sumitomo Corporation

    • What: Partnership aims to expand the global market for SpinLaunch’s mass accelerator launch services.

    • Why: This indicates increasing international interest in alternative, cost-effective launch methods, a potential game-changer for small satellite deployments.

  10. Pixxel and SkyFi Partnership

    • Who: India’s Pixxel and US-based SkyFi

    • What: Partnership to integrate Pixxel’s hyperspectral data products into SkyFi's platform.

    • Why: The collaboration could revolutionize Earth observation capabilities, impacting various industries such as agriculture, mining, and environmental monitoring.

  11. Ball Aerospace Satellite Testing Complete

    • Who: Ball Aerospace

    • What: Completed testing on the Weather System Follow-on – Microwave satellite.

    • Why: This marks progress for the U.S. Space Force's next-generation environmental satellite system, a critical tool for military and civilian weather forecasting.

  12. Featured interview: Award winning Science Communicator Maynard Okereke, better known as the Hip Hop M.D. You can connect with Maynard on LinkedIn and find out more about his work at his website.

Saturday, 9/09/23: Hip Hop Science Communication with Maynard Okereke.

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